A while ago, I have seen the American romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer by Marc Webb, that in fact isn't a romantic comedy at all.
It is the story of a guy who falls in love with a girl who doesn't give a damn about him.
Well, maybe just a little bit. The two are having "something", actually, a kind of a love affair, quite typical of our days (of winter, not of summer): they have sex, they hang out together, but the way he and she are living all this is completely different. He is looking for more, she is looking for less. For nothing at all, as a matter of fact.
As it is often the case in my existence, cinema enlighted me about life and the world around me through a very simple mechanism.
At a certain point of the story, she invites him to her birthday party (at her place). He goes there and, since the moment he rings the doorbell of the apartment, the screen is divided in two: one side is for Reality, the other one for Expectations.
Useless to say, what it is shown in the two screens is very different: the guy is longing for a super romantic night, while the girl is showing to all her friends an engagement ring. The only small problem is that, well, the guy she is engaged to, is not our hero.
Looking at that split screen I had a great satori: BAAANG!!!
Voilà, cinema in just few seconds showed me the way to give a frame to all those moments (oh, so many) where reality and expectations are not exactly the same.
It helps, I tell you. It even works, sometimes.
It is like seeing your life from a distance, it is like not being you, but some pathetic guy on a screen.
It is you, of course, you who just said the word not to say, did the thing not to do, dreamt the dream not to have.
But you can always pretend.
This is why cinema is (oh!) so much better than life.
ps I wasn't able to find a decent clip from the movie showing the split-screen scene I talk about in this post. BUT. Looking for that scene, I bumped into a very lovely video made by the film-maker together with the two main actors. One of those rare cases where reality wins over expectations.
You see, cinema never lets me down... (and hey, I can KILL for her dress!)
For the 70th anniversary of the famous "Appel du 18 Juin 1940" made by Charles De Gaulle at the BBC radio, last Friday the Centre Pompidou organized an event en plein air: the vision of the movie L'Armée des Ombres (Army of Shadows/L'Armata degli eroi) by Jean-Pierre Melville. The idea was great: to put a gigantic screen on the main façade of the building and let the people gather on the plateau Beabourg, finding a seat wherever they want. What the nice guys from the museum didn't think about, was the Parisian weather. I know, tomorrow it is Summertime, but on Friday in Paris there were 15 C°, plus a cold wind was blowing and, hey, a stone pavement is not exactly the most comfortable cinema seat ever tested.
I told a lot of friends about this amazing event, I even posted a link on my FB page to invite people to come, but in the end there were just a couple of friends who actually came (thanks Gradiva! Thanks Jordi!).
To be a real cinéphile, is not for everybody. I have to say that, in this case, the border between cinema freakness and complete craziness was very subtle. Not only we had to fight against adverse atmospheric conditions, but we had to deal with real crazy people and various drunks who took advantage of the big screen to share their thoughts and ideas with us. No thanks, maybe another time. A couple of pathetic "street artists" started a performance in the middle of the movie... what kind of mental illness they had? We were watching a Melville movie, no way our eyes could be caught by other scenes.
I had seen this film before, many years ago, and watching it again was an incredible experience. I am no surprised to read that this is considered a masterpiece of cinema history. And THE movie about French Resistance during the Second World War and the Nazi occupation of France.
Based upon the novel of Joseph Kessel, the movie follows the adventures/misadventures of a group of French resistance fighters: their tough day by day life, ruled by the fear of being captured and tortured by the Nazis. Fear that very often becomes a cruel reality: and sometimes they are able to escape, sometimes they die in prison in terrible circumstances.
This movie is so rigourous, dense, moderne. Every scene is right and necessary. Melville (who was a resistance fighter in his youth) took off all the useless things, getting to the core of the narration, so that the audience feel the fear of these men, suffer with them and want to fight with them. It is easy to do such a great job, I have to say, when you can count on such an outstanding cast: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Serge Reggiani and Simone Signoret. Ventura's performance, in particular, should be studied in every cinema class. He is simply perfect: so dignified and human. There is this magnificent scene: he is in London during a mission and he enters by chance into a jazz club. The way he is looking at the boys and girls dancing and having fun, unaware of the bombs falling on to the city, the way he stands uneasily at the entrance, knowing he will never belong to a place like that or people like that.
It is unforgettable.
I don't know how I managed to arrive at the end of the screening without starting a freezing process, but I did. I was so taken by the images, that I actually forgot about the cold, the crazy men, the drunks. I was looking at the people seated all around the plateau Beaubourg, in the dark, and I thought that we were an army of shadows too.
We didn't have to fight in a war, it is true, but I hope that, up in the heaven of great film-makers, Melville was looking at us, feeling proud.
Avere un blog è proprio una cosa bellissima, io ve lo dico.
Nel mese di Marzo, forse qualcuno se lo ricorderà, avevo pubblicato un post entusiasta su un film Italiano di rara bellezza: La Bocca del Lupo, di Pietro Marcello.
Quel film è stato per me, come direbbero i Francesi, un vero coup de coeur, ed ha avuto conseguenze piacevolissime.
Per prima cosa, una ragazza Italiana che vive qui a Parigi ha lasciato un commento al mio post: anche lei aveva assistito alla stessa proiezione, anche lei si era innamorata del film. Le ho scritto, mi ha risposto, ci siamo viste, ci siamo state simpatiche, adesso stiamo diventando amiche. Lei si chiama Marianna ed ha un blog molto carino che vi segnalo con piacere: Gradiva Soup. Mica male conoscere una bella persona grazie ad un film, no?
Poi, alcuni amici di Roma (i mitici Sara Conforti & Emiliano Morreale, sommi cinéphiles) hanno letto la mia recensione e mi hanno fatto sapere che il regista é un loro caro amico. Ci hanno messo in contatto, ho mandato a Pietro il link con il mio post e lui mi ha scritto per ringraziarmi! Sì, lo so, è una cosa bellissima, e lo è ancora di più se pensate che, secondo lui, io avevo un po' esagerato nei complimenti. Insomma: bravo, gentile, e pure umile. Forse è il Dexter Morgan italiano, altrimenti non me lo spiego. Nel frattempo, il film ha continuato a fare incetta di premi, tra i quali il David di Donatello e il Nastro d'argento come miglior film documentario.
Sapevo che Pietro ne aveva già diretto uno, di documentario, e ho iniziato a chiedere in giro come fare per averne una copia. E' andata a finire che lui in persona mi ha fisicamente spedito il DVD. E' proprio gentilissimo, che ci volete fare. Ho visto il film questo pomeriggio e, se andavo cercando una conferma del talento di Pietro, l'ho sicuramente trovata.
Il Passaggio della Linea, titolo ispirato ad un'opera di Georges Simenon, è una storia ferroviaria.
Sullo schermo vediamo sfilare immagini filmate dai treni o sui treni, in viaggi che percorrono l'Italia in lungo e in largo, dal Nord al Sud, di giorno e di notte: i panorami scorrono, veloci, ma un filo sottile li collega. Le stazioni cambiano nome ma sembrano sempre le stesse: Genova diventa Napoli, poi si trasforma in Milano, poi si scopre che era Firenze. Dal treno, l'Italia sembra quella che è: un posto bellissimo ma anche tremendamente squallido, un paese un po' alla deriva, come una bella signora che sta invecchiando male. Ad accompagnare le immagini lungo i binari a volte c'è silenzio, a volte rumori meccanici, a volte voci umane che si sovrappongono le une alle altre, e spesso una musica. A poco a poco, iniziano ad affiorare dei volti: sono quelli dei viaggiatori, ma non di prima classe. Italiani, stranieri, lavoratori, emigranti, che raccontano le loro storie davanti alla cinepresa, in maniera molto semplice e diretta. Sono tanti quelli che restano in mente: c'è il lavoratore di Napoli che viene da Scampia a cui tocca spiegare ogni volta che non ha mai avuto a che fare con la malavita, c'è il ragazzone meridionale che racconta che andare "in missione" al Nord è un po' come essere James Bond, o meglio Superman, tale e quale. Su tutti, però, spicca la figura di Arturo, un vecchietto dal passato interessante (di attivismo politico), che ha deciso, come alternativa alla casa di riposo, di passare la sua vita sui treni: finché ci sono treni, io avròuna casa, sono le sue incredibili parole. E con fermezza e piglio risoluto, davanti ad una cinepresa dall'umanità attenta e disarmante, racconta la sua bizzarra scelta. Si sarebbe pronti ad andare chissà dove, su questo darjeeling limited nostrano, ma poi, come tutte le cose belle, anche questo viaggio finisce. Il treno viene inghiottito, e noi con lui, dalla nave che attraversa lo stretto di Messina.
Per i film di Pietro si può utilizzare senza imbarazzo e anche un po' senza ritegno un aggettivo che spesso mi fa preoccupare, quando lo leggo: poetico. Perché dal poetico al patetico il passo può essere brevissimo, ma qui siamo ben lontani dal pericolo. Le sue immagini hanno la bellezza e la profondità di quei momenti senza nome che tutti abbiamo vissuto, pur senza avere il potere di ricrearli. Quelle scene che vediamo solo per un attimo fuggevolissimo, fuori dal finestrino, o lungo un corridoio: e magari c'era la nebbia, o il sole al tramonto, oppure era un gesto qualsiasi, il suono di una risata, e chissà perché ci hanno parlato, ci hanno detto tantissimo, su di noi, sul mondo che ci circonda, persino sul senso o non senso della vita. Ecco, quei momenti lì, senza voce, senza titoli, è raro vederli al cinema. E sono preziosissimi.
A proposito, nella lettera che Pietro mi ha scritto faceva una precisazione: il testo (poetico, e tanto) che si sentiva nella Bocca del Lupo non è di Franco Fortini, come a me sembrava di aver letto da qualche parte, ma suo.
Insomma, io ve lo dico: se non è Dexter, è Superman, tale e quale.
There are movies in cinema history considered masterpieces by all the critics.
If you don’t love them, well, you’re in trouble. I usually feel ashamed if I don’t appreciate them enough, but at the same time I can’t oblige myself to love “The Masterpiece” at every cost (I have this kind of problem with the so-considered Best Movie Ever, 2001: A Space Odyssey, that always bored me to death. I know, I’m sorry, I’m terribly sorry but... hey, what can I do about it??!). On the contrary, there are movies that are clearly not masterpieces, but nonetheless we happen to adore, no matter how critics have demolished them, explaining us why they are not working. Sometimes, actually, we love them because they are not working, because they are flawed. And sometimes, I just think that critics don’t get them and that those movies have been underestimated.This is why I decided to talk, once in a while, about my favourite dropout movies, hoping you will rediscover them and you will love them as much as I do.
Which movie should I start with? Real life gave me a little help. I was recently in London for my job and one evening, in a Soho restaurant, I bumped by chance into Ralph Fiennes. I managed to seat at a table almost in front of his table (but I’m sorry to say that apparently he didn’t notice the stunningly gorgeous cinema blogger who was looking at him non-stop during the whole dinner), and I immediately started to think about my favourite movie of his filmography: The End of the Affair, by Neil Jordan (1999), the perfect example of underestimated movie. Based upon a much autobiographic novel by British writer Graham Greene, The End of the Affair is set in London during the Second World War and it tells a story of love, jealousy and faith. Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) is a writer having an affair with Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore), wife of a civil servant, Henry Miles (Stephen Rea). They are madly in love with each other but, after an air raid where Maurice fails to be killed, Sarah suddenly breaks up with him. Why Sarah did what she did? Maurice can’t find an explanation and he is devastated and tormented by doubts. When, a couple of years after their splitting up, Sarah’s husband (who’s a good friend of Maurice) confides him to suspect his wife to be unfaithful, Maurice, still jealous of Sarah, recruits a private detective, Mr. Parkis (Ian Hart), to investigate upon her. What the husband and the lover will find out, though, it is far from what they expected and the truth they have to face is about to change their lives for ever.
The greatness of The End of the Affair resides in this: it is much more than you think. This is not the typical romantic drama, even if all the ingredients are there. This is not the classic story where the lover is handsome, nice, and irresistible, and the husband is awful, rude and unbearable. As a matter of fact, it is almost the opposite. The lover is not that loveable, after all. Maurice is rather selfish, as a character, his extreme jealousy makes him heavy and sometimes boring, while Henry is a much nicer and wiser man. This movie is able to surprise because it is always taking unexpected directions. You have no clue that religion is going to be one of the central themes until a scene that is a turning point in the whole story. And the relationship between Maurice and Henry at the end of the movie is so rare and precious, an incredible thing to witness. The structure is very interesting as well. The movie starts from the end: one of the first scene relates the meeting between Maurice and Sarah two years after the couple has separated, and from that moment we follow two different stories, the past and the present, that will converge only in the final part. It is also a movie having a quite gloomy atmosphere: it rains a lot, in London. But there is something that shines all along this film: the actors’ performances. If you read my blog, you already know that British actors are my favourite. I love them because they are the kings of understatement: no need to scream, to overact, to roll the eyes. An undetectable movement of the eyebrow will be enough. An entire range of emotions will spread in front of you through a single whispered statement, or a simple step. Here, Stephen Rea (l’acteur-fétiche of Neil Jordan) is a dream of subtlety and perfection as the husband who’s not able to provide for the strong emotions and physical attraction his wife needs, while Fiennes and Moore allow us to seat in our armchairs and think that the world is actually a better place we thought it was. And can I forget to mention the most underestimated actor of all? Ian Hart, signore e signori, wins us with another of his brilliant performances. When the juries of the acting prizes will finally open their eyes and gives this actor what he deserves? Last, but not least, Neil Jordan guides us through the complexity and the difficulties of the human heart with the passion/compassion (and a magical fluidity of filming) simply perfect for this story. The affair is maybe ended, but I hope that your love for this movie has just begun.